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Wheat or Whiskey?

I was recently asked, "Why is it important that the child is self-directed when playing at the museum?" I compare it to wheat.

1. Wheat fields are the first stage of making wheat whiskey.

"Self-directed" play leads to self-directed learning.

2. Now we have harvested grain.

Self-directed learning is a prerequisite to successful higher educational experiences and is often tested prior to college entrance. Employment also requires differing levels of this independent thinking.

3. Now we have mash, success.

Self-directed learning is vital for Lifelong Learning. This learning has an open mind and a real need to continue learning throughout their entire lives.

It is like the wheat that after harvesting and processing can then be distilled into whiskey that just gets better with age. "I am still learning." -Michelangelo at age 87.


Very young children thrive with consistent schedules and expectations, yet they also need to make "some" decisions and understand the consequences of those decisions. We all must experience making our own decision to learn to trust our instincts and abilities. The sooner we start, the stronger our skills can become.

Here are just a couple ideas to think about when offering your child self-directed play to build skills and empowerment.

  • Do not direct them. Period. It is hard, but let them decide what they are playing, the rules, and the space. Don't ask simple questions or interrupt their play.

  • Do not give feedback. Neither praise nor criticism. The skills they are working on require that they decide their own evaluation.

  • Unless you fear death or severe bodily harm, do not give them doubts through cautions or advice. Imperative they experience it fully.

  • Listen when they explain their role playing or imagination. Ask meaningful questions that inspire them to think critically where there is not a right or wrong answer.

With a little practice, they will know what they want to learn, how they learn best, and what resources they need to get to their goal. They will be very valuable employees, parents, and members of society.

I hope you enjoyed our time. If you'd like more information on getting the most out of your time at CMOMT, just call or email anytime! Thanks, Sherrie Neff

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